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Art Blakey: Mission Eternal, Vol. 2

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While some people have insinuated that nothing was really happening in jazz during the 1970s, this reissue should provide evidence to the contrary. Art Blakey, always working with younger talent, found a way to stay current in an era dominated by fusion, without compromising his integrity. While there are electric keyboards as well as electric guitars on this album, they are used in a style that's consistent with Blakey's credo. Mission Eternal demonstrates a fluidity and openness that helped to define that era's music.

By the opening drum phrases on "Gertrude's Bounce, you can instantly tell it's Blakey. The melody is fairly straight-ahead. Tenor saxophonist Carter Jefferson launches into an impassioned solo, then trumpeter Woody Shaw lends high-note bop phrases to the mix. The underlying sound of Tony Waters on congas adds something a little different to the mix than what typical Jazz Messenger units have done.

The title track by pianist Cedar Walton starts off as a vamp with the saxophone, piano and guitar in unison. Then trumpeter Shaw comes in and states the melody and takes the first solo in an almost dark tone. Electric guitarist Michael Howell follows with some neat plucking, but not just straight bebop. He seems to find notes that fit the groove and evoke the sounds of fashionable guitarists (at the time), such as Larry Coryell.

Jon Hendricks handles the vocals on "Moanin', the ever popular Bobby Timmons tune. While the Messenger units are not known for featuring vocalists, Hendricks fits in just fine here. Shaw takes a short solo that would make Lee Morgan proud, and Hendricks does a scat solo which proves why he was one of the best in the idiom. Pianist Walton shows how the electric piano does not need to be in the exclusive domain of fusion musicians.

"Love: For the One That You Can't Have, composed by Woody Shaw, definitely sounds different from the other pieces. It is more modern in phrasing and chord voicing. Shaw doesn't sound like anyone else here; you can tell he is getting more into his own style. Blakey always keeps the piece moving, and his fills and bombs underscore the music. Walton's keyboards are a little more elastic here, and very sympathetic to the tenor of the piece.

Track Listing: Gertrude's Bounce; Siempre Mi Amor; Mission Eternal; Moanin'; A Chant For Bu; One For Trane; Along Came Betty (Instrumental); Along Came Betty; Without A Song; Love: For The One That You Can't Have; Fantasy In D.

Personnel: Art Blakey: drums; Woody Shaw: trumpet; Carter Jefferson: soprano saxophone; Carter Jefferson: tenor saxophone; Steve Turre: trombone; Jon Hendricks: vocals; Michael Howell: electric guitar; Cedar Walton: keyboards; Mickey Bass: bass; Tony Waters: congas.

Title: Mission Eternal, Vol. 2 | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Prestige Records

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